What is the role of your organisation in UKTIN?
A key strength of the UKTIN partnership is that we cover the entire product development lifecycle, from pure research to commercial exploitation. CW sits at the commercial end of the spectrum.
We bring together a community of people and companies who are passionate about innovation and want to build successful businesses through the development of new products. The companies we work with range from small businesses that are just starting the journey, to national network operators and global manufacturers.
Our specific role is to build awareness of UKTIN, and the opportunities it provides, through the development of an effective marketing strategy. We will also be developing more specialised guidance for suppliers attempting to develop specific categories of products.
Why did you want to be part of UKTIN?
We have a long history as an innovation network in telecoms. We started out as ‘Cambridge 3G’, around 20 years ago when we developed one of the first test beds for the development of mobile data applications. We’ve grown with our members, developing special interest groups which are active across the many commercial sectors which use wireless tech.
We ran UK5G, the national innovation network whose mission was to help the UK remain at the forefront of the global wireless industry. UKTIN is a natural next step for us. We think we’re well placed to ensure that UKTIN delivers on its goals, and we think that our own members will benefit from being part of it.
What is the biggest challenge facing the UK telecoms ecosystem?
We should start by remembering what we’re good at. The UK has a world-beating track record in R&D. It is the best place in Europe to start a telecoms business, and one of the best places in the world. We have our share of global success stories, such as ARM, whose offices are just down the road from me. Of course, we’d all like more of these.
The challenge is the same as it’s always been. This is a global industry, in which the manufacture of equipment benefits from economies of scale. Network operators tend to purchase complete systems, and many individual elements of those systems have become commoditised. Success requires a distinctive product offering and a route to market-based on an appropriate set of partnerships.
Where lies the biggest opportunity?
There are plenty of ideas being debated at the moment. Telecoms operators want a greater choice of suppliers, and are exploring the opportunities created by open network architectures. Incumbent telecoms operators are facing new challenges, from companies delivering wireless services over unlicensed spectrum, to companies laying their own fibre networks. All of us are trying to work out which of the new applications enabled by 5G can be delivered profitably.
I could go on. The truth is that I have no idea which of these opportunities will succeed. The wonderful thing about our industry is that change is the only constant. The only thing I am certain about is that there will be a further disruptive change in the technologies we use to communicate, and this will create new opportunities for those able to seize them.
What do you hope to achieve within UKTIN?
The basic aim is pretty simple. We want to make it easier for people with great ideas to meet, learn from each other, and build profitable businesses.
We recognise that we’re a small part of a global industry, so much of what we do will involve leveraging existing capabilities. By the same token, modest efficiency gains, from more effective collaboration, can deliver substantial dividends.
What is the biggest benefit a boosted telecoms ecosystem will bring to the UK?
From an industry perspective, it’d be great to see more UK companies gaining the scale to compete globally, boosting tech sector exports, and reducing the UK's dependence on financial services. But, as an ordinary consumer, I’d settle for decent mobile coverage in my village.
You can read the interview with Lesley Holt, Director of Acceleration and Adoption, West Midlands 5G here.